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Recommendation? Help me design the perfect small game knife

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by Papa JB, Jun 22, 2020.

  1. Papa JB

    Papa JB

    Jun 17, 2020
    In the spirit of using the right tool for the job, what would the perfect small game (rabbit, squirrel) knife be? Everything that I have seen referencing small game has been described as "also good for small game" and is usually a small hunting/skinning knife. But processing rabbits and squirrels is different from processing deer. Here are my initial thoughts on design principles:

    A. 2-2.5" blade - not making any big sweeping cuts
    B. Sheepsfoot or wharncliffe blade - straight edge for cutting mostly in a downward direction and a "dull" tip to prevent accidentally cutting into the gut cavity
    C. steel that prioritizes edge retention, corrosion resistance is a nice to have, toughness is not a priority - CPM-S110V fits the bill for the 'perfect' knife but there are several options depending on budget. Quickly processing small game often involves cutting through the fur to cut the skin, sometimes around the circumference of the torso, and commonly cutting through the bones at the ankles/knees. Even though none of those cuts are "heavy duty" if you are going to prioritize a characteristic it would be edge retention IMHO.
    D. thin blade but wide at the base of the spine to be able to apply downward pressure with your thumb
    E. full flat, hollow, or scandi grind? may depend on the choice of steel or vice versa
    F. Full length but relatively narrow handle, more resembling a scalpel handle

    Would appreciate critique and advice on these factors or anything else that should be considered.
  2. Hickory n steel

    Hickory n steel Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 11, 2016
    Not a hunter, but I think a spey blade might be a good all around compromise.
  3. CVamberbonehead

    CVamberbonehead Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 6, 2017
    I have found that the best small game knife for me is a Case Trapper or mini trapper. You dont need much to do the job on small game.
    MolokaiRider likes this.
  4. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Apr 20, 2018
    I gutted a lot of birds, fish, and other myriad critters and I'm almost the opposite of what you suggest. Agree on a couple things but we largely part ways.
    Sharp & Fiery likes this.
  5. Danke42


    Feb 10, 2015
    You probably want to search up "Bird & Trout" knives. You should find something close there.

    Not too sure how popular wharnies are in that application though.
    MolokaiRider likes this.
  6. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Apr 20, 2018
    They're not.

    A decent pairing knife would work. A quality B&T would just take it up a notch.
    CVamberbonehead likes this.
  7. Danke42


    Feb 10, 2015
    Just get one of the Marbles antique ones and regrind the tip.
  8. Darth_Blader


    Oct 18, 2016
    I agree with the B&T thoughts above. They were sort of developed for what you’re trying to do.

    I think you should add a bone breaker/joint separator notch to your plans. I had one by Ed Hallagan with the notch on the ricasso and it seemed near perfect for the task. I have a bit of sellers remorse for letting that one go

    Papa JB likes this.
  9. MolokaiRider

    MolokaiRider Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 13, 2017
    Agree. I use one of these as well and it works great.

    Case does not seem to grind the main blade tip to a point, which in this application works in your favor.
  10. l1ranger

    l1ranger Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 27, 2017
    agree that a b&t or trapper style folder is the right tool for the job
    I dont worry about busting the guts on small game - the skin is long gone and its a very thin peice of belly meat that needs to be cut to remove the entrails.
    full flat would be my preference, but scandi would be okay i think
    I'd want something that can be easily touched up in the field with basic equipment

    these would be my preferences
    Eli Chaps likes this.
  11. Henry Beige

    Henry Beige Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 1, 2015
    How about a muskrat, with two identical California clips. Two blades vitiates edge retention.
    Grateful likes this.
  12. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    Take a look at the Dozier K-20 Canoe model. Works very well for small game and can be used for deer sized game. I would skip the wharnie blade consideration completely. I would generally choose a larger knife for deer "processing". The K-33 Bird & Trout would work well too.

    As @Henry Beige suggests, a trapper slip joint... specifically the GEC #48 Improved Trapper is all you need. But some prefer fixed blades. Used a slip joint for small game for years.... works very well. Just clean the knife a bit afterwards.
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2020
  13. Papa JB

    Papa JB

    Jun 17, 2020
    Care to elaborate on where we differ and what you would do differently?
  14. Papa JB

    Papa JB

    Jun 17, 2020
    Birds, and especially fish, I would go with a fillet knife which is about the opposite of what I described.
  15. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Apr 20, 2018
    I've never used a fillet knife to dress a bird or a fish for that matter. I've used a fillet knife after I've dressed a fish. But that might just be a difference in approach.

    There are hundreds of years of design philosophy behind small game knives so rather than asking me to explain why we are so different, perhaps you could explain why you wish to deviate from them. I'm not trying to duck the question but you posted the thread and I tend to agree with the more standard approach so why do you think it is flawed or needs improved upon?
    CVamberbonehead and 22-rimfire like this.
  16. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    Just to let you know, I could easily get by with a true wharncliffe blade style such as on the Viper slip joint I have seen pictures of. Generally I want a small fixed blade that is easy to use, sharp, holds an edge, and pointy versus a spear type point or drop point. But for general woods purposes, the spear point is stronger and works for regular cutting with occasional skinning or field dressing. It is all a matter of degree in terms of practical use.

    But I would like to understand why you feel your design is better than a traditional bird & trout knife?

    By the way, I own a handmade knife that is similar to your description except blade height and I call it my little scalpel. It's nice and I may have to find a picture of it somewhere to show you.
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2020
    Eli Chaps likes this.
  17. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    Here is a picture of the little knife along with one of my full sized Kepharts (5" blade on the Kephart for reference).
  18. CVamberbonehead

    CVamberbonehead Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 6, 2017
    I agree with the Bird and Trout idea, that completely slipped my mind lol A KaBar or Case little finn type knife has gutted (by the way, good luck avoiding guts on small game, its impossible not to open up the guts, its not like gutting a deer) many a rabbit over the years. I like this style of knife, and if you had only one hunting knife, the B&T style would serve well. Good for birds and deer alike. Mine is a Hess Whitetail. :thumbsup:

    I will also put my 2 cents in about blade shape since others are. A wharncliffe will just be frustrating. Theyre too needle-ey/off center and will constantly be getting hung up, poking holes in the hide. Belly is important on a hunting knife, you dont need to make big skinning cuts on a squirrel (well on second thought....that fur is super glued onto those little guys... :D) but you need to have some to keep from using the entire edge on the animal. The belly area is where all your cutting mostly occurs for control reasons. There isnt much meat on a rabbit, you dont want to mangle what is there. In my experience the perfect small game knife already exists, perfected by many hunters over many years. A Trapper knife, or a Bird and Trout.:)
    Darth_Blader, Eli Chaps and Lee D like this.
  19. Papa JB

    Papa JB

    Jun 17, 2020
    Perhaps I am over-engineering this because as several people have said, it doesn't take much to process small game. And it isn't a high volume activity. The designs of boning, fillet, and chef's knives are pretty much "perfected" because a lot of butchers, fisherman, and chefs use those all day every day. My hypothesis is that a small game knife is not a priority for most people so they use whatever is "good enough". For example, I use a Buck 110 because I have it with me and it works fine but I wouldn't say it is ideal. Is a Case Trapper the "ideal" knife or the most convenient knife that works? Are wharnies not common because they are the wrong design for the application or because few people have them in their pocket?

    I am not claiming that the characteristics that I described are 'better' than everything else... just wanted to provide my logic to start the conversation. I welcome responses that say "no, you wouldn't want a wharnie because ABC, an XYZ blade profile would be better because...".

    It looks like I should get a B&T. In that case, what is the "ideal" B&T (blade length, grind, steel, etc.)?

    Darth_Blader suggested a bonebreaker knotch.
    Fixed blade would be easier to keep clean than a folder.
  20. cbach8tw

    cbach8tw Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 9, 2006
    I like the small fixed blades by GEC but the thin clip point in 1095 are hard to find, wonder if they were discontinued? A close one o it would be a LTWK Coyote or one close to it by Battlehorse knives, a Birch River?

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